2023 World Champs Preview: Tokyo Olympic Rematch Brewing in Women’s 100 Fly

2023 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BY THE NUMBERS — WOMEN’S 100 BUTTERFLY

  • World Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden — 55.48 (2016)
  • World Junior Record: Claire Curzan, United States — 56.43 (2021)
  • Championship Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden — 55.53 (2017)
  • 2022 World Champion: Torri Huske, United States — 55.64

Four of the five fastest performers in the history of the women’s 100-meter butterfly are slated for their first rematch since the Tokyo Olympics two summers ago.

Defending world champion Torri Huske comes into Fukuoka with the top time in the world this season (56.18), but many would not consider her the favorite in this year’s race with the return of reigning Olympic champion Maggie MacNeil looming large. MacNeil was just .11 seconds away from Sarah Sjostrom’s world record (55.48) during her 2021 Olympic victory in Tokyo, where China’s Zhang Yufei (55.64), Australia’s Emma McKeon (55.72), and Huske (55.73) were all right on her heels.

McKeon skipped last year’s World Championships and MacNeil only swam relays while recovering from an elbow injury, but they should be back in action for Monday night’s 100 fly final along with Huske and Zhang. Plus, rising star Gretchen Walsh will be looking to stun the more experienced quartet as the 50 fly American record holder searches for her first major international medal.

The Sub-56 Club

It may take a sub-56 time to make the 100 fly podium at this year’s World Championships — a ridiculously high bar to clear considering only six women in history have ever dipped under that barrier. Four of them are in this race, though (Sarah Sjostrom and Dana Vollmer are the other two).

It’s tough to bet against MacNeil in this race given that she hasn’t lost the LCM 100 fly at a major senior international meet. The 23-year-old Canadian enjoyed her long course breakthrough four years ago at the 2019 World Championships (55.83) before throwing down the third-fastest time ever (55.59) en route to Olympic gold two years later. At last year’s Commonwealth Games, she clocked a 56.36 to edge McKeon by only .02 seconds.

This season, MacNeil’s best time is a 56.54 from Canadian Trials in March, less than two weeks after the NCAA Championships. She suffered a rare loss at the Barcelona stop of the Mare Nostrum Tour in May (57.83 behind Louise Hansson’s 57.52), but if she can hit peak form in her signature event again next week, the world record will be on watch.

Huske could also be a threat to take down Sjostrom’s seven-year-old world record in this event. The 20-year-old American was a tenth of a second faster at this year’s U.S. Trials (56.18) compared to last year (56.28), so she could be even quicker than her winning time from last year, an American record of 55.64 that ranks fifth in history.

McKeon could be back with a vengeance this year, or she could still be focused long term on the Paris 2024 Olympics, but she certainly has the speed to secure a medal in this stacked race. The 29-year-old triumphed at Aussie Trials with a 56.74, about a second off her personal-best 55.72 from the Tokyo Olympics, where she took bronze. McKeon made the 100 fly podium at the previous two Worlds before skipping last year, winning silver in 2017 (56.18) and bronze in 2019 (56.61).

Zhang, the reigning Olympic 200 fly champion, also brings a ton of experience to the table. The 25-year-old earned silver in the 100 fly at the Tokyo Olympics and bronze at Worlds last year before suffering an elbow injury at Short Course Worlds that disrupted her training plan early this year. However, the silver lining was that the setback forced Zhang to focus on improving her lower-body strength, underwater, and turn technique during her rehab process. Her 56.48 from Chinese Nationals ranks fourth in the world this season, and the Hangzhou native recently said she’s seeking to break the world record in this event at the Asian Games in two months.

Other Finals Contenders

Marie Wattel captured silver at last year’s World Championships with a personal-best 56.14 after heading into the meet with a season-best time of just 57.75. Her season best of 57.34 from June’s French Championships doesn’t jump off the page, but the 26-year-old Olympic finalist has proved the past couple years that she can post impressive time drops when it matters most.

Walsh turned heads at U.S. Trials by blazing a new American and U.S. record in the 50 fly (25.11) before edging Kate Douglass for the second qualifying spot in the 100 fly with a personal-best 56.34. The rising UVA junior dropped nearly four-tenths off her lifetime best (56.73) from just a month prior.

Walsh would likely need to drop even more time in order to medal in Fukuoka, but if the rapidly improving 20-year-old can manage to upset a pair of Olympic medalists and join Huske on the podium, it would be the first time in more than 40 years that America has produced a pair of medalists in this event since the 1982 World Championships (when Mary T. Meagher and Melanie Buddemeyer took gold and bronze, respectively, in Guayaquil).

Lana Pudar enters this race with momentum fresh off a personal-best 56.95 at the European Junior Championships earlier this month. The 17-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks sixth in the world this season among those who are racing in Fukuoka. Pudar placed 8th at Worlds last year (58.44 after going 57.67 in the semifinals) before claiming bronze at the European Championships (57.27) a couple months later. The double taper will be difficult, but she has shown the ability to manage heavy racing loads

Louise Hansson and Brianna Throssell are both aiming to make their third consecutive Worlds A-final in this event. Hansson, a 26-year-old Swede who placed 5th at the Tokyo Olympics, owns the better time this season between the two with a 57.00 at the Stockholm Open in April. Throssell was the runner-up finisher at Aussie Trials behind McKeon with a 57.66, just off her season-best 57.57 from April. Hansson finished 4th at Worlds last year (56.48), missing the podium by just .07 seconds, while Throssell placed 6th (56.48).

Another returning Worlds finalist is 28-year-old Egyptian Farida Osman, who clocked an African record of 57.66 en route to 7th place in Budapest. However, her best time this season is just 59.28 from the Stockholm Open in April.

At April’s Berlin Open, 22-year-old Angelina Kohler fired off a new German record of 57.22, smashing her previous-best 57.85 and vaulting into the A-final conversation for Fukuoka.

Two-time Olympian Rikako Ikee qualified for her first Worlds in six years with a 57.68 at Japanese Trials, which marked her fastest time since returning to competition in August of 2020 following her leukemia diagnosis. 25-year-old countrywoman Soma Ai could also challenge for a spot in the A-final after posting a personal-best 57.42 at Japanese Nationals in April.

Chinese 18-year-old Wang Yichun appears high on the entry list with a personal-best 57.05 from March’s Chinese Spring Nationals at age 17, but she couldn’t quite replicate the performance at May’s Chinese Nationals (57.85).

SwimSwam’s Picks

Rank Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Maggie MacNeil (CAN) 56.54 55.59
2 Torri Huske (USA) 56.18 55.64
3 Emma McKeon (AUS) 56.74 55.72
4 Zhang Yufei (CHN) 56.48 55.62
5 Gretchen Walsh (USA) 56.34 56.34
6 Marie Wattel (FRA) 57.34 56.14
7 Lana Pudar (BIH) 56.95 56.95
8 Louise Hansson (SWE) 57.00 56.22

 

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Sherry Smit
10 months ago

MacNeil 54.96
Huske 55.35
McKeon 55.82

KATE
10 months ago

YuFei Will be back

jeff
10 months ago

I’m going Maggie here but I think Torri could definitely steal it. Emma is getting older and I think it’d be very impressive for her to pump out a 55.7 mid which would probably medal but not take gold. Imo Yufei and Emma will be fighting for bronze and Maggie/Torri for gold, so I guess what SwimSwam is predicting.

jeff
Reply to  jeff
10 months ago

Gretchen is a big question mark, maybe I’m too bullish on the UVA girls but if she has a good swim I feel she could totally end up on the podium. Probably not gold though

Hshjshshsja
10 months ago

Its hard to choose anyone other than MacNeil for gold here. She’s won at every major competition she’s competed in and she is the only active swimmer who’s set all of her world records in finals at major competitions which is incredibly hard to do. Think about how most elite swimmers go slower in high pressure situations W100bk for example. The its a coin toss for second I may have to go with Mckeon because she’s been really gaining momentum over the past few years and seems to peak at summer meets. Yufei for 3rd

Splash
10 months ago

Pudar over Hansson?

Personal Best
10 months ago

SwimSwam’s top 5 are very strong and very close – and I think this event is more open than others, and it could be any of those 5 with a realistic medal chance.

So difficult to know the shape some of these swimmers are in this year. A few of them including MacNeil and McKeon had lighter years last year and are building up, while someone like Walsh seems to be on the up and up. Form will be interesting and could make this close.

A sub 56 podium is likely and I think it will be close among the top finishers.
Someone busting a mid 55 or low 55 would certainly be exciting though.

Torchbearer
Reply to  Personal Best
10 months ago

Agreed. It could come down to just who gets the best touch..

RMS
10 months ago

Torri Huske will win gold and break the world record in the semi-finals.

Justin
Reply to  RMS
10 months ago

LOL!!!! Hope she’s been working hard on her lack of closing speed in LCM

Nada de Nada
Reply to  RMS
10 months ago

Nope. It won’t happen.

Zippo
10 months ago

A Flight of Champions: Women’s 100 Fly

In aquatic depths, champions convene,
A Tokyo rematch, a flight of grace,
The Women’s 100 Fly, a fierce routine,
Where dreams take flight, a timeless chase.

Maggie MacNeil, Canadian’s pride,
Her wings of skill, she spreads wide,
Never lost in waters wide,
On victory’s breeze, she’ll forever ride.

Torri Huske, American’s young light,
Her fire burning, passion’s gleam,
She aims to conquer, claim her right,
A record-breaker, like a dream.

Australia’s McKeon, swift and strong,
A bronze in Tokyo, she did wear,
Her silver wings, she’ll prove them long,
With every stroke, a victory to declare.

Zhang Yufei, China’s graceful ace,… Read more »

Bud
Reply to  Zippo
10 months ago

You know it’s too long when you have to repeat phrases lol
You used “in waters deep” and “in every race” twice and repeated the motive of silver.
Do better next time

Last edited 10 months ago by Bud
Yikes
Reply to  Bud
10 months ago

I’m impressed you read the whole thing

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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